Last year was joyous summer of babies in my extended family – one of my Irish cousins had a baby in May, followed by my own munchkin exactly one month later, my sister-in-law’s baby in late July. I was a little overwhelmed, and the Irish baby ended up getting his quilt last – I started it first, but I always forget how incredibly fussy the Meisen Maru block is, so I ended up setting it aside halfway through so I could finish my sister-in-law’s quilt in time for her baby shower, and then I had a baby… But I got it finished it the end!
I wanted bright, saturated colors for this quilt, and I wanted to incorporate some kind of nature theme – my cousin loves the Irish countryside, her husband likes astronomy, and I have many fond memories of tromping along lanes, through coppices, and across the turlough with my cousins – so based on that, I came up with a design that, in my mind at least, incorporated elements of stars and greenery.
The base for this quilt is, as I mentioned above, the Meisen Maru/Meisen Silk Circle block from Japanese Quilt Blocks to Mix and Match, by Susan Briscoe. It’s a good book, and this is the third time I’ve made this block – except each time I forget how annoying it is to piece… Anyway, I think I may have finally gotten it out of my system, because I LOVE the finished result this time. Previously I have been frustrated by using fabrics that were too busy, and which obscured the design – I think this time the fabrics allowed the design to shine.
So, why is it annoying, you ask?
Well, there are a lot of pieces, and once you look at how the block is constructed, you realize there’s very little that can be strip-pieced to save time, so construction is fussy.
Also, all the pieces are tiny. The base for the block is 1″ strips, so the finished block is mostly composed of half-inch strips and squares. It’s intricate and beautiful, and it takes forever. If you look at the back of the piece above, you’ll see that with 1/2″ finished width, the seam allowances start getting in the way, which can make it difficult to sew a straight line.
But the finished result is so gorgeous it’s hard to resist (Click through to Flickr to see a larger version!) Part way through, I started thinking of this as the sun disc quilt, because the bright orange Meisen Maru blocks reminded me of a pagan sun disc design. (This is perhaps apt, given the recipients.) Doesn’t the dotty blue batik look like the night sky?
I modified the Meisen Maru block to create the radiating edge blocks. Originally I planned to have green blocks in the corners with appliquéd Brigid’s Crosses on them, but I decided that would detract from the effect of the sun disk so instead I used big plain blocks of the blue batik… which of course I didn’t quiiite have enough of. Luckily, the fabric store still had some in stock, or I would have been a very sad rabbit indeed.
I had some yellow and orange variegated Japanese cotton from Miss Matatabi in my stash which I used for the Meisen Maru blocks. I tried to play with the variegation to create a gradient effect, but I think the pieces were too small to really display the color changes to their best effect. It does show up a little, though it’s hard to see in these pictures. It’s better in person.
I love this fabric so much! It’s the Unicorn Tapestry design from a collection called The Lovely Hunt, and I think it’s perfect for a baby quilt. There are so many fun animals and plants to find and look at. 😀 Plus it’s just cute! I snatched up the bolt of fabric as soon as I saw it and carried it around the store while I looked for the rest of the fabrics.
And the animals are all asleep, which seems like a good thing for a baby quilt. What exhausted parent hasn’t carried a fussy baby around, quietly begging their child to go to sleep? 😉
The binding fabric is a lovely plant-patterned batik, which was originally slated to become the background for the Brigid’s Cross squares. And the Brigid’s Cross itself – well, as you can see above, I turned it into a quilt label!
This was the first quilt I have ever bothered putting a label on, but I really wanted there to be a Brigid’s Cross somewhere on the quilt. 🙂 I like the extra touch of personalization a label adds, so I may have to start doing more of them.
Brigid’s Crosses are supposed to protect houses (Wikipedia,) and St Brigid is one of those Catholic saints that shares a name and quite a lot of traits with a pre-Christian diety – in this case, Brigid of the Celtic pantheon. Both Brigid and St. Brigid are guardian figures – of the house and hearth and babies, among other things. How fitting for a baby quilt! Added to which, my cousin and her husband had their wedding ceremony at the beautiful Brigit’s Garden near Galway. So the little cross is a symbol of protection, and a nod to my cousin’s story. ❤ I miss my cousins, and I hope I get to meet the little one soon!
I also made a coordinating swaddling blanket out of some very soft double gauze, also from Miss Matatabi. It’s just a 36″ square, hemmed and with mitered corners. Very simple, very quick, and a nice return on your time investment. 🙂
I really enjoyed making this quilt. Between this and the quilt I made for my sister-in-law’s baby (blog post coming soon!) I feel like I leveled up my quilt making this summer. 🙂